A few days ago, I wrote my first diary on Daily Kos. Despite nearly a decade of reading posts and occasionally commenting, I'd never felt compelled to write a diary until my wife and I decided to create a petition calling for a repeal of the law banning the CDC from doing research that might advocate for restricting gun rights. We were ecstatic to see the diary receive dozens of recommendations and comments and equally excited to see our petition get the support of over 1,000 people in less than two full days.
Soon after we started the petition, President Obama announced that he was in fact going to fund the CDC to do exactly the kind of scientific research proposed in the petition, which is obviously incredibly affirming, even if it means that pursuing the goal of getting 25,000 signatures now seems unnecessary. That said, there may be at least some value in supporting petitions that advocate for stiffer gun laws and more effective gun research, if only to make it clear to our elected officials and to the wider public that common-sense gun policies have wide support (especially when there are petitions calling for the impeachment of Andrew Cuomo for passing stronger gun laws).
It was incredibly gratifying to watch as the signatures mounted on the petition website and to see the names of people from across the country sign on in support, but it may have been even more rewarding to tap into the community here at Daily Kos and to see dozens of intelligent people expressing support and even adding other reasons why the ban is so harmful. This post isn't intended as a victory lap--we still have a long way to go to pass meaningful legislation that will make all of us safer from gun violence--but instead it reinforces for me the real power of leveraging social media for political change.
The mass shootings in Tucson, Aurora, and Sandy Hook have provoked some serious reflection on what we can do as a country to curb gun violence. My wife and I--like many millions of others--have been disturbed to watch as these shootings become a frequent occurrence. One of the factors that may be inhibiting a true understanding of the causes of these horrible crimes is a 1996 ban on funding for research by the Centers for Disease Control that would result in promoting or advocating gun control. The 1996 amendment simply states that "None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” And the original author of the amendment, Jay Dickey,even supports its repeal.
To call attention to this issue, my wife and I have created a petition on the White House petitions page. The petition simply calls for the ban preventing the CDC from doing research on the causes of gun violence to be lifted:
As a result of NRA lobbying, politicians passed a 1996 appropriations bill that was amended to include a stipulation that "None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” This restriction against funding for research on gun violence remains in place today. The ban on funding has had a chilling effect that has closed off true scientific inquiry and possibly contributed to the epidemic of gun violence.
The CDC is an organization that provides unbiased, evidence-based research. Therefore, they are best-positioned to provide accurate statistics related to gun crimes. Thus, we petition that the CDC receive funding and be allowed to conduct this vital research.
Although this is only a small step toward truly curbing gun violence, we believe it is a vital one, especially given the complexity of the causes of these tragic mass murders. We hope our petition
can make some difference in how we make sense of these issues.
Update: Rachel Maddow also discussed this issue recently on her show and in her blog.